Aid groups can't reach starving children
More than one million children face starvation in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region because humanitarian workers cannot reach them, relief agencies estimated yesterday.
International inaction to end what has been termed genocide by the United States and some non-governmental organisations was blamed for increasing areas of the remote region being closed to outside help.
Government-backed Arab rebels have been widely accused of killing up to 70,000 black Africans since the conflict intensified. The World Health Organisation recently claimed 10,000 were dying each month from hunger and disease.
The founder of the Britain-based charity Kids for Kids, Patricia Parker, described the situation as horrendous and 'a crisis that is being ignored'.
Save the Children Fund UK spokesman Paul Hetherington confirmed the magnitude of the problem by estimating that at least half of the 2 million to 2.5 million people trapped in villages by fighting were children and that almost three-quarters were inaccessible to humanitarian workers bringing food, water and medicine.
'Quite a lot are inaccessible to us because of the security conditions,' Mr Hetherington explained from London. 'We had to pull out of one of the main areas we've been working in a few days ago because of the threat of bombing. Several months ago we were unable to reach 40 per cent of the population and it's more like 70 per cent now.'
Apart from the conflict, Darfur is in the grip of a drought and crops are failing because villagers have been unable to tend them. The lack of food and water was described by the experts as severe and children, because of their low body mass, were seen as the most vulnerable. But Mr Hetherington also identified other critical difficulties.
'The majority of children have no education, no access to health care and live in very traumatised times,' he said. 'Children and women are bearing the brunt of it.'
Ms Parker, who established Kids for Kids four years ago after a visit to Darfur, said the common practice of female genital mutilation had exacerbated the crisis.
Carried out for religious reasons, the practice has been widely condemned by human rights groups worldwide.
'Female genital mutilation is 100 per cent in the villages, which means that obstructed labour is normal and the only way to give birth safely is to get to a hospital,' she said after a visit to Hong Kong. 'The conflict has made doing that safely impossible.'